Posts Tagged ‘Marina Abramovic’

7. Goodbye performance art. It’s been…an experience.

I wasn’t going to do another blog but after I finished I found myself thinking about what I will take from this module and what it has taught me and realised that since I still had some room left in the word count I could type up my thoughts.

1)     Confidence.

This is something that I have discussed prior to this post so I won’t go into much detail. This module has helped me get over personal confidence issues. Something that I feel is actually relevant to performance art because it is all about personal development and experience. Like Marina Abramovic points out when discussing what performance art is to her, “You must confront your own fear” (2011, p.211)  as a lot of her work involves pushing her body to the limits, she goes on to say:

“If you’re afraid of pain, you have to find out what this pain is. When you open the door to pain, you’ll find out that you actually might be able to control it. You’ll be free from pain- which is a great feeling.” (Abramovic, 2011, p. 211)1

Using this analogy, my fear was speaking in public and by facing it I feel like I’m partly on the way to overcoming it.

2)     A new way of thinking.

When devising performances or directing scripted work, I’ve always had to consider staging, audience and intention.  The disciplines and practices I’ve learnt about in this module have allowed me to start thinking outside the box and are things that I will consider in the future when creating theatre.

This module has broadened my way of thinking and my understanding of the term ‘performance’. I have been opened up to the idea that performance is not just acting that takes place on a stage or in a studio. I feel like I can now appreciate performance art, and more importantly I can feel that I can now accept that it is an art form, it is simply “art that does not hang on the walls of galleries” (Abramovic, 2010)2

3)     An admiration for Marina Abramovic

I’m glad that this module required us watching ‘The Artist is Present’ because I am now completely fascinated by Marina Abramovic. I’d say something along the lines of “the way she suffers for her art is inspirational” but I can never see an element of suffering in what she does. Even in work that required her to physically harm herself and push her body to its limits, all I could see was a true passion and enthusiasm for what she creates. That is the inspiring thing.

To conclude my blog posts and this module, I am going to say that although I now understand performance art and can appreciate it artistically, I think I can safely say that it is not really for me and I don’t think I would involve myself in it again. I have enjoyed the experience on the whole though and I feel like I can transfer the knowledge I have gained from it into my future performances.

  1. Abramovic, M. (2010). Marina Abramovic on Performance Art. In: Biesenbach, K. P Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present. New York: The Museum of Modern Art. 211. []
  2. Abramovic, M. (2010) Interview: Marina Abramovic. Interviewed by Sean O’Hagan [in person] Madrid, Sunday 3 October 2010. []

Art and Performance. What is it?

After watching an in depth documentary which looked into the work of the radical artist Marina Abramovic, many questions arose in my mind. What is art? What is true performance? Marina’s work certainly challenged what I had always perceived to be these things. The word “performance” has many meanings.

“In business, sports, and sex, “to perform” is to do something up to a standard – to succeed, to excel. In the arts, “to perform” is to put on a show, a play, a dance, a concert. In everyday life, “to perform” is to show off, to go to extremes, to underline an action for those who are watching.” (Schechner 2006, p. 28).

I would never have previously considered various acts of what can only be described as self harm to be art. However by doing these pieces, Marina is pushing her limits and actually becoming the performance, making her very soul the art; because it IS art. By putting her whole self into the performance, she is appealing emotionally to her audience and evoking diverse opinions, both things which ‘ordinary’ art pieces can do also.
In the documentary, she says “When you perform it’s your own blood.” – and this is the difference between performing and acting. To perform isn’t to create a character and hide behind it; it is to do something meaningful to you and share it with others. In Marina’s exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, she did a performance called ‘The Artist is Present’, and this is the perfect example of how she throws herself into the piece. The performance was raw and emotional; just an artist connecting with her audience. With regards to this she says that “The hardest thing to do is nothing”. It may be the hardest thing to do, but it can also provide an audience with an extremely hard-hitting piece of art.
Whilst Marina’s work hasn’t directly influenced the direction of my ideas for the site-specific performance, principles within it have given me inspiration. It has certainly helped me to understand the true meaning of performance.

Works Cited

Schechner, Richard (2006) Performance Studies: An Introduction, New York and London: Routledge

Posted: March 7th, 2013
Categories: Early Research, Marina Abramovic, Performance Art
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Playing With Ideas

‘If site-specific performance involves an activity, an audience and a place, then creative opportunities reside in the multiple creative articulations of us, them and there’ ((Pearson, M. (2010) Site-Specific Performance. Palgrave: Macmillan. p18))

How an idea forms ultimately comes down to what we are inspired by and the creative opportunities that surround us depending on space and activity. Do we need a trigger, or do things just come to us out of blue. Having now watched one of Marina Abramovic’s works Seven Easy Pieces where she stood heightened in a long dress, I found I too wanted to create an image within our performance that could be seen as such a spectacle.

Marina ab

(Marina Abramovic, “Entering the Other Side.” Courtesty of Microcinema.)

Having originally looked into doing a performance with blindfolds and previously testing the use of different senses, in controversy it seemed we were now focusing on the use of imagery and sight as opposed to taking it away with blindfolds. How we could relate this to the library would be the next step. It was now a case of beginning to think about the resources within the library and how we could relate them to this new idea. . It seems extremely simple, yet could be so effective if we were to use books that reside within the library to make dresses, whilst standing on the many podiums used around the library within the shelves.

This is where our next experiment would begin. We decided now was time to practise making one of these dresses, however, out of old magazines. During this process we began to think the actual making of these ‘dresses of knowledge’ could in itself be part of our performance. Making one practise dress took around an hour; however we will need to look into editing our design to give it more of a structure and look into the style of dress we wish to create. We would then perform within the dresses for a certain period of time, and afterwards destroy them. This would result in a circular process of making, wearing and destroying the dresses. Below, you will be able to see the end product.


(Jakins, 2013, University Of Lincoln Library.)

There were many different reactions to our final product. Some people simply ignored what was around them, whilst others questioned our motifs and asked what we were doing. This made us realise how crucial the placing of the pages and content we make the dresses out of will be. If our audience will look that in depth into what we create, we need to have a solid statement.

Having gained a range of reactions in the aisles, we decided to now move to the entrance of the library to get a different set of opinions. Everyone would have to leave the library eventually, so would have to view the statuesque image. Some people again were genuinely interested and began to take pictures and discuss what was right before them. Others, however, did not even notice Natasha due to the background we placed in front of her, which just shows how intently some people choose to use the library.

This initial experiment seemed to be successful in provoking a response, but now we need to look into the content we want to use to make the dresses out of and the style we want to form.



Nicholls, Natasha 2013.

Nicholls, Natasha 2013.


*Retain imagistic element developed through costume; making and wearing dresses out of books, walking/ posing around the library in relation to the content of the books used.

*Spiritual and ritualistic as if we are:

* People brought from the past to live in the present

*People trapped in the present through modernisation

*Wearers of knowledge

*Statues – Craig’s idea of dehumanised figures-‘the actor must go, and in his place comes the inanimate figure…’1

*Dressed in white like the pages of a book, the black ink marking its history and language on the human.  Written on the body.  Inspiration from Payot: the body is the image.

*Keep podcast/audio visual performance

We could have moments in various poses, extending the ritualistic aspect of a day in the library which could become content.  Antonia Eleftheriou encourages us to ask the question, “Who are we in relation to the library?” The aim of her work for A WORKING TITLE in 2011 was ‘to explore and expose the role of people’2 and focused on bringing historical monuments to life ‘with people’s details’ (Warner 2011).  Bringing past to present.

A lot of the performance is beginning to be centered around ‘non acting…turning the actor into an element in a visual construction directed and produced by himself’3, a notion supported by Kantor, a theatre practitioner not unlike Craig who wished to preserve the art of the object.  This sense of stillness therefore becomes the object of the overall art.

‘the words he chooses are like visual objects’4.

Marina AbramovićThe Artist is Present has the effect of a spectacle without acting.  She exudes emotional intensity with Abramović sitting in one position, connection created with eye contact alone.

Solomons, Jason 2011,

Solomons, Jason 2012,

The slowing down of the body and the mind, achieving stillness, has a powerful effect in a moving landscape because of the performer –audience relationship that is relevant to the routines of the library because of the distant connection between many that enter and exit the building.  Trying to unite them through an internal, emotional and physical connection.

As part of A WORKING TITLE there was a performance called That Dark Horse of which I was a participant.  It was an audio tour about what Lincoln used to be like. There were various places around the city where the performers were based.  As the audience reached our destination, we would perform a small movement or gesture that related to the story being told on the  headphones.  I was on a little bridge just outside of the University, throwing confetti into the water.  It made me ask questions such as what did the bridge used to be used for and I felt nostalgic for what was.  It was the movement and leaving a trace or a mark that I can relate to what we are doing in terms of tearing books to create something new with their pages, leaving a trail of scattered pages, rediscovering them and bringing them back to the present, the ideas and words written on the page brought together as the ultimate object of a library; the book.

The performance is beginning to adopt the structure not unlike Joshua Sofaer’s performance lecture The Many Headed Monster in terms of ‘dealing with audiences’5 and encouraging them to become an ‘active participant’ ( 2009) in the way they interpret the content of the piece.

The Pre-Performance – the making of the dresses

The Performance -the exploration/posing around the library

The End Performance -creating a new book by sewing all of the pages off our dresses together.

Word Count: 607

Works Cited (in footnote order):

(1)    Huxley, Michael and Noel Witts (1996) Twentieth Century Performance Reader, London: Routledge, p.159.

(2)    Warner, Sophie (2011) A WORKING TITLE, 26-27 November:  Launch 25 November, programme,

(3)    Witts, Noel (2010) Tadeusz Kantor, London and New York: Routledge, p.35.

(4)    Witts, Noel (2010) Tadeusz Kantor, London and New York: Routledge, p.63.

(5) (2009) The Many Headed Monster/ Joshua Sofaer, Online: (accessed 6 May 2013).

  1. Huxley 1996, p.159 []
  2. Warner 2011 []
  3. Witts 2010, p.35 []
  4. Witts 2010, p.63 []
  5. 2009 []

Taking a Journey in Someone Else’s Eyes…

‘Calling herself the grandmother of performance art’ (Allain and Harvie 2006, p.13)

After delving into more research on Marina Abramovic, I find myself to be more fascinated. I want to take one main element from her work and that’s to get the audience to be a part of the final performance.

Exploring the library in an early session gave me the idea of using headphones with the audience and setting out a list of instructions for them to follow. Myself and couple of others from the group experimented with this and had our tutor to be our “guinea pig” and test our experiment. Due to short amount of time he had set us to create the task we had to use mobile phones to communicate, this proved difficult as we lost signal and the call disconnected in certain parts of the building. The feed back we were giving from our tutor was that the piece did give some form of own meaning to the participant, but not quite what we wanted the responce to be.

We then sat down and discussed what we could adapt to make the piece have meaning.

  • Taking a journey through the library in someone else’s eye’s.
  • History of the build – What it was before the library.
  • Looking at the building as a grain factory.

I and a couple others from the group took a trip to the city library, where we found it has an archive of pictures of the city and it’s surrounding dating back to early 1800’s. Here we found a few documents that we thought we could incorporate into our piece:

  • Photographs of the city that surrounds.
  • Pictures of the library.
  • Pictures of the grain factory.

After deciding this I looked at some work by Janet Cardiff. Her pieces called Walks could be considered a high influence to our ideas.

All of my walks are recorded in binaural audio with multi-layers of sound effects, music, and voices (sometimes as many as 18 tracks) added to the main walking track to create a 3D sphere of sound.’ (Janet Cardiff:

In these pieces the participant/audience listen to a pod cast/recording of Cardiff giving instructions and building a story, for example, in one of her pieces she tells the participant to sit on a bench and look out in front. She then continues to tell the listener to hold up a certain photograph out in front of them. The photograph is of a woman sat on the bench in front. She then starts to ask questions such as,’ what is the woman thinking?’, ‘Where is the woman now?’ She also rises the point of that the past is being brought to the present. This is one aspect of Janet Cardiff’s work I want to bring to the final idea.

Having to come up with 3 ideas for our next session, I would like to propose my idea of looking at the city through someone else’s eyes whilst telling a story.

  • Using audio.
  • Headphones to make the piece more intimate.
  • Photographs as a visual aid.

I want to take the listener on a journey through the library in the eyes of a worker in the factory. By setting up numbered points in the library to look out the windows and hold up the photographs matching that number. This will firstly, bring the element of making the familiar unfamiliar and secondly bring the past to the present.

I’m excited to see the outcome of the experiment and the ways in which we can develop this into something better and stronger. I’d like there to be volunteers from our group and possibly people outside our group to be a second “guinea pig” for this idea and to give feedback on how we can improve it.


Allain, Paul and Havie, Jen (2006) The Routledge Companion the Theatre and Performance, US and Canada: Routledge.

Cardiff, Janet (accessed: 10.05.13)

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